International Conference | 29 June - 03 July 2005
Daniel: Henry | Canada
Proposal to coordinate and chair a discussion by an international panel.
This is a proposal to coordinate an international panel of researchers to examine relations between funding agencies and the research institutions or individual researchers they serve in an attempt to determine the extent to which different policies and practices influence research paradigms. Since my research area is in dance and performance studies, and my experience has been primarily within British and North American higher education systems, I would be interested in hearing from researchers from a number of different countries and contexts. The primary aim of the panel would be to compare funding structures, research organizations and research paradigms and assess how they affect productivity in general among performing arts disciplines. I would also like to determine the extent to which international guidelines for practice as research in the performing arts could be useful in any of these areas.
My own experience of higher education in Britain or North America has given me the impression that there is a rapidly growing trend to formally recognize and to act on the notion that practice as research in the arts is part of a larger reassessment of how knowledge is collected, processed, rewarded and disseminated. Although the development and use of new technologies has contributed a great deal to these directions, I believe that there have been other, perhaps more important elements that have contributed. Some of these latter are centered around the idea that new knowledge emerges at the intersections of existing disciplines rather than strictly within them. In other words, there is a continuum of connectivity between specialisms that allows different kinds of knowledges and/or ways of knowing to intimately influence and/or expose the specifics of any single one. This fluidity has manifested itself in the past in debates between multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. My own feeling is that, essentially, we are witnessing the evolutionary nature of research paradigms.
As such, we can look at these processes in terms of scientific complexity, in the sense that we are looking at the growth of research systems as dynamic, self-evolving complex systems where practices become shared across disciplinary borders. I am proposing that our academic bodies, funding organizations, and disciplinary categories have become monolithic “organizations” that are changing to escape extinction. Practice as research in the arts is a way of reassessing the notion of complexity within academic institutions in order to save certain disciplinary activities from extinction. In calling for an international panel of researchers to examine the extent to which national funding agencies in different countries influence and/or determine research paradigms, and how this may or may not differ from how researchers see and/or wish to have their practices assessed, I hope, with the help of other panelists, to identify obstacles as well as instances of good practices that surround this path to change.
I myself have found it quite difficult adjusting to a particular Canadian context after working for a number of years within the British higher education system. The fact that I have a background as a professional dancer and choreographer outside the academic world also influences my perspective. However, I’m theorizing that the two main issues that arise in trying to deal with the notion of practice as research have to do with the specific contexts in which practice as research is assessed, and the systems of reward that surround the researcher. The former has in the past assumed that academic research has a fixed form that preferences certain fields, practices or research activities, while the latter puts a monetary worth on that research in terms of its perceived value to society. Since key terms like “research”, “knowledge”, “disciplinarity”, “practice”, “value” and “society” have themselves undergone radical reassessment, I would also like to suggest that, if we are to properly contextualize and reward practice as research in the arts, we need to rigorously explore relationships between these terms as if they were independent self-organizing systems.
In considering what kinds of international guidelines could be helpful in dealing with these issues, participants should be prepared to discuss or give a short account/demonstration of their practice and to identify how this sets up a specific attitude to research. For example, the perspective of the dance artist as scholar is the starting point for my own research practice. As an artist, my studio practice consists of choreographing bodies —, often using a range of media from video and ultrasonic sound and motion sensors to motion capture technology —, in live and recorded performances in conventional theatre environments, site-specific situations, television and the Internet. As a scholar, I interrogate the issues surrounding these activities, contextualizing the work of others who have contributed to the disciplinary discourse, and challenging some of their analyses. However, even though this research is always contextualized around the body as a performing entity, it has a wider transdisciplinary perspective. What this means is that, to pursue my research, I require a set of technical tools and physical resources, in addition to an environment where I can access vastly different disciplinary interests and expertise. For a number of reasons, ranging from time constraints to curriculum design, this is extremely difficult in most institutions.
This panel should therefore comprise an international group of researchers who can offer innovative perspectives on how to navigate the “self organizing systems” that either obstruct or permit their research. I would be prepared to coordinate this panel and to stimulate discussions leading up to the meeting of delegates at the PARIP 2005 conference using some of the resources of TransNet.
Lead Researcher - TransNet
Associate Professor – Dance and Performance Studies
School for the Contemporary Arts
Simon Fraser University